The Easel

How Léon Spilliaert’s dark paintings are strangely uplifting

Léon Spilliaert is overshadowed by his Belgian compatriot James Ensor. Should he be? His early career yielded lonely self-portraits and nuanced seascapes. Then came a happy marriage and, it seems, fewer artistic fireworks. “Enigmatic works [that] inhabit a twilight netherworld between reality and dream” says this writer. Another is unconvinced: “an uneven, repetitious and limited artist”